Sat Feb 1st, 2014 at 04:33:31 PM EST
There seems to be some confusion about the term minority rights. It is used for the rights of national or ethnic minorities. In Europe these only exist for recognised minorities, so nation states largely are free to decide on their own if (and to which groups) they want to concede minority rights. Gives a new meaning to the term 'rights'... In the case of national or ethnic minorities there are some collective rights: without some rights to language and culture the group's existence as a group would be at risk. Secondly, the term is used for the protection of persons against discrimination for their race, religion, etc. Important difference: this protection starts with the individual. There is even a third use: the rights of the opposition in a parliamentary system, especially a weak one as currently in Germany, are sometimes formulated in terms of "minority rights". I wonder how much this confusion contributes to the fear minority rights apparently cause. There are widespread fears of a minority having more influence than their size would suggest, and this fantasised influence is damaging society as a whole. It doesn't matter much which minority we are talking about, because enmity of different groups is related anyway.
We tend to think that these fears and prejudices are the playground of the right wing, but this is not true as surveys taken before and after the economic: Islamophobia on the right wing is already high and stagnating, it increases in the middle and in the left.
There are some recurrent topics in debates on the human rights of minorities, and in our discussion we clashed over Muslim women's veils and headscarves, immigrants not assimilating, and religious freedom. In other words, human rights as specified in the ECHR: the rights a majority in a democracy cannot take away from us--much to the anger of the right wing and how many more besides them?
I won't attempt to sum up the thread objectively, because I am absolutely not inclined to be objective: This is about human rights. The human rights of the most vulnerable among us, and then of all of us, and soon we will need these rights badly. How anyone can call it progressive to abolish any of our human rights is beyond me. There are these intentions though.
First, the veil or headscarf. For women who choose to wear it, it may be an expression of their religious feeling. Compliance with what their religion demands. Often it is simply tradition, and leaving the house without a headscarf is simply and uncomplicatedly unthinkable. The act of choosing a scarf, whose patterns and colours can be a statement on the wearer's personal circumstances like marital status and even her mood, can become a point in daily routine that a person values. The last thing these women need is forcible liberation.
The movement to ban women from choosing their own clothes has very recognisable roots in colonialism.
Katharine Viner: Feminism as imperialism | World news | The Guardian
The classic example of such a coloniser was Lord Cromer, British consul general in Egypt from 1883 to 1907, as described in Leila Ahmed's seminal Women and Gender in Islam. Cromer was convinced of the inferiority of Islamic religion and society, and had many critical things to say on the "mind of the Oriental". But his condemnation was most thunderous on the subject of how Islam treated women. It was Islam's degradation of women, its insistence on veiling and seclusion, which was the "fatal obstacle" to the Egyptian's "attainment of that elevation of thought and character which should accompany the introduction of Western civilisation," he said. The Egyptians should be "persuaded or forced" to become "civilised" by disposing of the veil.
And what did this forward-thinking, feminist-sounding veil-burner do when he got home to Britain? He founded and presided over the Men's League for Opposing Women's Suffrage, which tried, by any means possible, to stop women getting the vote.
France and the veil - the dark side of the law | openDemocracy
During the Algerian war, a ceremony where women took off their veils was even staged by the French occupier to show they were liberating Algerian women." The veil, Ramdani adds, wasn't considered a problem when women - some of them veiled - joined their husbands who had emigrated to France to work in the 1960's and the 70's. "This generation was a silent one," she says. "They would work and keep their mouth shut. It was only after the descendants of immigrants marched against racism and stood up for their rights in the 1980's, that problems appeared." Among the new generation that had grown up in France but was still not perceived as French, many started questioning what being Arab meant - and some of them looked for answers in religion, says Ramdani.
The attempts to force Muslim women in Europe out of their clothes--a form of forced nudity--remind me of rape as a weapon of war: the junction of ethnic and gender humiliation, the "use" of women's bodies in the name of nation. This is why I show a visceral reaction when I see bans on whatever piece of women's clothing. The war on The Other in the first place targets women and it is at best naïve to claim one only participates in order to free women who they say wouldn't free themselves. At least not in the prescribed way and to the normed end state.
So while there is sexism showing in the bans on veils and headscarves, and anti-religion especially anti-Muslim, it can't be separated from plain racism and xenophobia. This is where they all merge. Women's clothes is one item in the demand that immigrants have to adopt "our culture", whatever that is. I am shocked that these ideas find sympathy on ET, and that I have to deal with people who don't like to see veils, because they interpret the veil in their own way and think it a a statement on society they don't agree with AND they think their opinion has to trump the woman's. Or with people who issue demands that immigrants to the UK have to make sure their children learn English, because otherwise the job of teachers becomes harder. Sure, it is the immigrants' fault if we can't pay enough teachers. There are TWO official languages in the UK, not only one, by the way. But it's a very nice way to ethnicise what in reality is a social problem. nobody, including immigrant parents, denies that having a good command of English is important in the UK. Despite this insight there will always for a variety of reasons be some children whose English isn't good enough when they start school and they will need some extra help, not normation and blame. Is all this really new to ET'ers? I thought it was common knowledge how the "debate" of immigration and integration is in reality the ethnisation of social conflict, a strategy to prevent solidarity.
I firmly believe in justice and equal rights of all humans. I am using "believe" with a reason: there is core belief underlying all political convictions. Our (rational) political choices have a foundation in such sets of beliefs. Making it a matter of principle to stand with the vulnerable, to defend human rights, to fight for justice is NOT equal to playing games in the woodlands.
You of course have a right to practice a religion. You also have a right to go to the local woodlands and LARP on the weekends.
When those two rights have roughly the same status, you have religious freedom.
When "but my religion says" is an argument that carries more weight than "but the rules of our LARP are," then you have religious privilege.
Is that consensus here, that our beliefs and ethical norms carry the same weight than the rules of games? Or is that only the case when these beliefs are informed by religion? Do ET'ers demand an atheist privilege?